With Crimea now front and center in the news, read here how the Crimean War was the incubator for many ideas that resonate today. The telegraph was in its infancy and allowed “live” reporting from the Crimea battlefield to London. Along with the telegraph, the use of railroads for transporting troops and equipment and the development of the conical “Minie” ball bullet incubated in Crimea and mightily influenced our own Civil War. And of course there is fashion—in the form of what today is known as a ski mask. NPR’s Steve Drummond details all that came out of that conflict.
Fashion: Speaking of Balaclava, the Crimean War also left us with a popular form of cloth headgear, also known as a ski mask.
Journalism: A relatively new invention, the telegraph, enabled much faster communications between the far-flung battlefields in Crimea and the homefront in London. This enabled some of history’s first “live” war reporting.
Criticism of military operations reached the British public in relatively real time, and the British government found itself in a predicament familiar to politicians in many modern conflicts: losing control of information from the battlefield. Sir William Howard Russell‘s dispatches in The Timeshelped change the course of the war. Notably, he pointed out the terrible treatment the British provided their wounded soldiers, including the lack of ambulances.
Health Care: Reports of deplorable battlefield conditions spurred Florence Nightingale andMary Seacole to improve combat medicine and military sanitation. Getting shot was in some ways worse than getting killed outright, as the wounded were often left lying in filth and agony where they had fallen or exposed to gruesome treatment in what then passed for military hospitals. In many cases, treatment was simply death postponed, as survival rates were extremely low. And troops who managed not to get shot weren’t out of danger. More soldiers died from poor sanitary conditions and diseases, such as typhus and cholera, than perished in battle.